This month, Rand Bellavia takes a look at his growing longbox, and reflects on comics released in December 1979, 1984, 1989, 1994, 1999, 2004, 2009, and 2014! Rand Bellavia is back to share his fond memories of decades of comic collecting and reading in this month’s Random Access Memory.

December 1979

Cerebus 13

The first few issues of Cerebus were a little rough, but Dave Sim quickly settled into a highly entertaining, great looking book.  None of this could prepare the reader for the insanely complex storytelling that would begin with High Society in issue 26, but these early “done in one” issues still have a lot to offer.

In this issue Cerebus encounters an “evil” sorcerer:

Despite the fact that his name and earmuffs would indicate a fascination with death, Necross’s plan involves bringing the stone giant to life.

But then, just as his evil monologue is getting interesting:

You don’t need me to spell this out for you, do you?

Only after making short work of the priest and his friends does Necross see the fatal flaw in his plan.

Comics I Read From December 1979

  • Avengers 193
  • Uncanny X-Men 131
  • What If 19

December 1984

Saga of the Swamp Thing 34

As that stunning John Totleben painted cover promises, this is a beautifully rendered and surprisingly romantic issue of Swamp Thing.  Abby and Alec shippers rejoiced as Abby declares her love for Alec.  She did this by talking about Alec in the third person — the way that only fictional characters do — and, of course, he totally doesn’t get it until she spells it out for him.

While the art on this page is amazing, and I *loved* this page when I first read it, I have to admit that I can’t imagine a real life situation where someone would confess to a good friend that they were in love with “someone” and then — surprise! — it was the person they we’re talking to all along.  Am I jerk?

After they clear all that up, Abby and Alec discuss the whole “sex” thing, and Alec makes it clear that he can’t provide her with traditional human sexuality.  (Why he can’t offer her some hand or mouth stuff is never addressed.)  He gives her one of his tubers as a consolation prize.

Turns out he’ s been growing some really good shit.

Most of the issue is taken up with their mutual trip.  The writing is very poetic but the art is the real star of the show here.

During their refractory period, Abby and Alec resume verbal communication.

Comics I Read From December 1984

  • Alpha Flight 20
  • Amazing Spider-Man 262
  • Avengers 253
  • Beauty and the Beast 3
  • Cerebus 69
  • Coyote 10
  • Defenders 141
  • Epic Illustrated 28
  • Iceman 3
  • Kitty Pryde and Wolverine 5
  • Marvel Fanfare 19
  • Marvel Super-Hero Secret Wars 12
  • Nexus 7
  • Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 100
  • Somerset Holmes 6
  • Twisted Tales 10
  • Uncanny X-Men 191
  • Vigilante 15
  • Web of Spider-Man 1
  • Zot 7

December 1989

The Wasteland

For the last decade of the 20th century, I made pretty much everyone I met read this thing.  I’ve never known anyone else who owned a copy.  In fact, the only evidence I have that this book even exists is the copy I own.  Louapre and Sweetman were responsible for Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children, the shockingly long-lived anthology of illustrated short-stories that ended up being the unlikely standard-bearer of DC’s ill-fated Piranha Press.  Working separately they wrote or illustrated a few early Vertigo books, but I haven’t heard from either of them since the late-90s.

The Wasteland (not to confused with DC’s Wasteland horror anthology from a few years earlier) was basically the Far Side for people with a sicker sense of humor and a penchant for more realistic illustrations.

Honestly, if I read this book for the first time today, I’m not sure I would like it.  But 20 year old me sure did love it.

The combination of gallows humor and bizarre imagery was just what I was looking for back then.  Easy pleased.

And I still find myself saying “Space hates me” when things go wrong.  No one ever understands what I’m talking about.

Other Comics I Read from December 1989

  • Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children 7
  • Cerebus 129
  • Dr. Fate 13
  • Dreadstar 53
  • Hardcore GN
  • Hellblazer 26
  • Incredible Hulk 366
  • Legends of the Dark Knight 3
  • Question 34

December 1994

Instant Piano 2

I love this strange little four issue series.  It is probably the most indy thing ever published by Dark Horse Comics.  There are five writer/artists at play here, but I’m all about Kyle Baker and Evan Dorkin.

In this issue, Kyle Baker starts to serialize a strip called “You Are Here,” which has never been collected or reprinted.  A few years later, Baker would publish an original graphic novel with the same title, but the stories are completely unrelated — the graphic novel is a densely plotted action-adventure story and this is just a bunch of people talking to each other in various clubs, bars, and restaurants.

The second sentence in this next panel had been part of my conversational vocabulary for the last 25 years.

Evan Dorkin checks in with this amazing strip.

If he’d been doing this kind of stuff ten years later, he’s be a lot more famous.  This issue also marks the origin of Dorkin’s “Fun” strips.  Each page is made up of seven four-panel (three panels if you don’t count the title panel) gag strips.  This issue includes 6 pages of “fun” (42 strips total).  All of them are funny.  Some of them are stupid, some groan-worthy, some poignant:

This one never fails to amuse me:

Comics I Read from December 1994

  • Amazing Spider-Man 398
  • Angela 1
  • Aquaman 5
  • Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight 68
  • Books of Magic 9
  • Brooklyn Dreams 1
  • Cerebus 189
  • Demon 55
  • Flash 98
  • Hellblazer 86
  • Incredible Hulk 426
  • Invisibles 5
  • Maxx 12
  • Shade the Changing Man 56
  • Sin City: The Big Fat Kill 2
  • Starman 4
  • Strange Tales
  • Swamp Thing 151
  • Tainted
  • Tale of One Bad Rat 3
  • Underwater 2

December 1999

JLA: Earth 2

This original graphic novel reintroduced the multiverse concept to DC, officially undoing 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, and paving the way for several future DC’s Crises.

It begins with the JLA investigating a mysterious plane crash.

The JLA confront Lex Luthor, but it’s not their Lex Luthor.

I love that Lex’s desk is a carved-out redwood tree.  Luthor informs that them he is a hero from a world where the JLA are villains who call themselves the Crime Syndicate.  He is excited to find a team of super-heroes, and begs the JLA to accompany him back to his world and help him fight the good fight.

Conveniently, Aquaman and J’onn are the only two JLA members without Crime Syndicate doppelgängers.

Luthor soon makes it clear that the title of the graphic novel doesn’t mean what we think it does.

The JLA arrives on “Earth” and are surprised to find themselves hopeless outclassed by the Crime Syndicate.  Morrison’s explanation for this is brilliant.

But the good news is that members of the Crime Syndicate have crossed over to “Earth 2,” where they find Aquaman waiting to kick their asses.

In a nice nod to Kandor, Ultraman (i.e., Evil Superman) keeps an enslaved Brainiac in a bottle.  Turns out all of this madness was Brainiac’s plan to defeat Ultraman.  But Superman has something to say about that.

So the JLA save Alexander Luthor’s Earth by abandoning it to the Crime Syndicate — who, finding themselves much less effective on “Earth 2,” are only too happy to return to their world.

And don’t forget that Ultraman is the opposite of Superman, which means he’s more than just a little bit evil:

Other Comics I Read from December 1999

  • 100 Bullets 7
  • Adventures of Superman 575
  • Authority 10
  • Avengers 24
  • Avengers Forever 12
  • Batman 574
  • Batman: Dark Victory 3
  • Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight 126
  • Detective Comics 741
  • Flash 157
  • Flash/Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold 5
  • Flinch 9
  • Hellblazer 145
  • Hitman 46
  • Hourman 11
  • I Die at Midnight
  • JLA 38
  • JSA 7
  • Louis Riel 3
  • Planetary 8
  • Preacher 58
  • Preacher: Tall in the Saddle
  • Promethea 5
  • Sam and Twitch 5
  • Sin City: To Hell and Back 6
  • Starman 62
  • Strange Adventures 4
  • Tom Strong 6
  • Tomorrow Stories 5
  • Top Ten 6
  • Totems
  • Transmetropolitan 30
  • Wonder Woman 153

December 2004

G-Man 1

If you don’t know Chris Giarrusso’s work, you should fix that right away.  His storytelling is solid, his artwork is hilarious — few comics artist can nail physical comedy as well (or as frequently) as Giarrusso does — and his writing is sharp and funny.

Most recently, he created the book Encounter with Art Baltazar and Franco and illustrated Hashtag: Danger for Ahoy Comics.  His work as writer and artist of Mini Marvels is great fun — especially if you’re familiar with the Bendis-driven Marvel crossovers of the early 21st century* — and his creator-owned G-Man series of comics and graphic novels is a must-read.    This first issue gives us a hilarious origin story:

Like most great super-hero narratives, it’s only a matter of time before G-Man joins forces with other costumed crime-fighters.

But before G-Man can answer…

Turns out that’s Kid Thunder.  His father (the aforementioned Captain Thunderman) tries to clear the air between these young heroes, but quickly sinks to their level.

Then G-Man’s brother arrives to save the day by providing Captain Thunderman with incontrovertible evidence that his son is a douche.

Other Comics I Read from December 2004

  • 100 Bullets 56
  • Adam Strange 4
  • Adventures of Superman 635
  • Astonishing X-Men 8
  • Authority: Revolution 3
  • Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes 3, 4
  • Captain America 2
  • Catwoman 38
  • Daredevil 68
  • Deadshot 1
  • Ex Machina 7
  • Fantastic Four 521
  • Flash 217
  • Goon 10
  • Gotham Central 26
  • Green Lantern: Rebirth 3
  • Hellblazer 203
  • Hulk/Thing: Hark Knocks 4
  • Human Target 17
  • Identity Crisis 7
  • Invincible 18
  • Iron Man 2
  • JLA: Classified 2
  • JSA 68
  • Losers 19
  • Lucifer 57
  • Madrox 4
  • Marvel Knights Spider-Man 9
  • New Avengers 2
  • Ocean 3
  • Plastic Man 13
  • Powers 7
  • Punisher 15
  • She-Hulk 10
  • Sleeper Season Two 7
  • Solo 2
  • Swamp Thing 10
  • Teen Titans 19
  • Tom Strong 30
  • Ultimate Fantastic Four 14
  • Ultimate Nightmare 5
  • Ultimate Spider-Man 70
  • Ultimates Two 1
  • Warlock 4
  • What If Aunt May Had Died Instead of Uncle Ben?
  • What If General Ross Had Become the Hulk?
  • What If Jessica Jones Had Joined the Avengers?
  • What If Karen Page Had Lived?
  • Wolverine 23
  • Wonder Woman 211
  • Y: The Last Man 28

December 2009

Dark Avengers Annual 1

*Speaking of Bendis-driven Marvel cross-overs from the early 21st century:

Ten years ago, Brian Michael Bendis imagined a world where a disgraced millionaire industrialist gave himself a populist makeover by creating HAMMER (the more pro-active replacement for SHIELD) and donning “Iron Patriot” armor.  He also formed the Dark Avengers by recasting the Avengers with a cadre of subservient villains.

Impressively, Bendis even got some of the talking points right:

Insanely, there’s even a scene where Norman Osborn excitedly orders burgers and fries for his honored guests — a full decade before the Clemson Tigers dined at the White House.

Other Comics I Read from December 2009

  • Action Comics 884
  • Adventure Comics 5
  • Amazing Spider-Man 614, 615, 616
  • Astonishing X-Men 33
  • Avengers: Initiative 31
  • Beasts of Burden 4
  • Blackest Night 6
  • Blackest Night: Flash 1
  • Blackest Night: Wonder Woman 1
  • Captain America: Reborn 5
  • Captain America: Who Will Wield the Shield?
  • Chew 7
  • Criminal: Sinners 3
  • Daredevil 503
  • Dark Avengers 12
  • Dark Avengers: Ares 3
  • Daytripper 1
  • Detective Comics 860
  • DMZ 48
  • Ex Machina 47
  • Fantastic Four 574
  • Ghost Rider: Heaven’s on Fire 5
  • Greek Street 6
  • Green Lantern 49
  • Green Lantern Corps 43
  • Hellblazer 262
  • Incredible Hercules 139
  • Incredible Hulk 605
  • Invincible 69
  • Invincible Iron Man 21
  • Marvels Project 4
  • Mighty 11
  • Mighty Avengers 32
  • New Avengers 60
  • Northlanders 23
  • Origins of Siege
  • Outsiders 25
  • Phonogram: The Singles Collection 6
  • Powers 2
  • Punisher Max 2
  • Secret Warriors 11
  • Siege: Cabal 1
  • Spider-Woman 4
  • Strange 2
  • Sweet Tooth 4
  • SWORD 2
  • Thor 604, 605
  • Ultimate Comics Spider-Man 5
  • Uncanny X-Men 518, 519
  • Unknown Soldier 15
  • Walking Dead 68
  • War Machine 12
  • Web of Spider-Man 3
  • Wolverine: Weapon X 8
  • X-Factor 200

December 2014

They’re Not Like Us 1

Yet another entry in the “21st Century X-men” comics sweepstakes, They’re Not Like Us was created by Image publisher Eric Stephenson and artist Simon Gane.  It opens with a mysterious stranger (you know he’s mysterious because he’s lighting a cigarette in his very first panel) literally talking someone off the ledge.

The smoking man introduced himself as “The Voice.”  He convinces the girl to join his merry little band of people who are… well, not like us:

The Voice shows Syd his record collection, and gives her the house rules.

Syd immediately identifies the flaw in the rule regarding anonymity, and the other shoe drops:

Other Comics I Read from December 2014

  • Action Comics 37
  • Activity 16
  • Afterlife with Archie 7
  • All-New Miracleman Annual 1
  • All-New X-Factor 17, 18
  • Avengers 39
  • Batman 37
  • Batman and Robin 37
  • Batman/Superman 17
  • Bitch Planet 1
  • Black Widow 13
  • Captain Marvel 10
  • Chew 45
  • Copperhead 4
  • Cyclops 8
  • Daredevil 11
  • Deathlok 3
  • East of West 16
  • Goon: Occasion of Revenge 4
  • Graveyard Shift 1
  • Grayson 5, Annual 1
  • Harbinger: Faith 0
  • Justice League 37
  • Men of Wrath 3
  • Ms. Marvel 10
  • Multiversity: Thunderworld Adventures 1
  • Names 4
  • New Avengers 28
  • Outcast 6
  • Punisher 13
  • Revival 26
  • Robin Rises: Alpha
  • Secret Avengers 11
  • Sex Criminals 9
  • She-Hulk 11
  • Southern Bastards 6
  • Storm 6
  • Superman 37
  • Superman/Wonder Woman 14
  • Supreme: Blue Rose 5
  • Thor 3
  • Valiant 1
  • Walking Dead 135
  • Wayward 4
  • Wicked + the Divine 6
  • Wytches 3
  • Zero 13

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About Author

Rand Bellavia is half of the Filk Pop Nerd Rock band Ookla the Mok. They’ve been playing at science fiction and comic book conventions since 1994. Their clever, media-savvy lyrics, catchy melodies, and accessible power-pop sound have made them a cult-sensation with nerds everywhere. With song titles like Super Powers, Welcome to the Con, Arthur Curry, Kang the Conqueror, and Stop Talking About Comic Books or I’ll Kill You, it’s easy to see why. Rand and Ookla the Mok have won four Pegasus Awards, and the 2014 Logan Award for Outstanding Original Comedy Song. Ookla the Mok had the most requested song on Dr. Demento in 2012 (“Tantric Yoda”) and 2013 (“Mwahaha”). Rand co-wrote the theme song for the Disney cartoon Fillmore, and his vocals are the first thing you hear on Gym Class Heroes’ Top Five hit “Cupid’s Chokehold.” In his secret identity, Rand is the Director of the Montante Library at D’Youville College in Buffalo, New York. He has lectured and presented at international conferences on the subject of comics and libraries. Rand is like the Internet, except he smells nice.

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